The NFL Draft is set for Thursday, April 29, and as we get closer to draft day, expect offerings on sportsbooks to get more and more robust.
As far as actual betting goes on who gets taken when, the NFL Draft is the ultimate in “information” betting. In short: Paying attention to people with their ear to the ground goes a long, long, long way to ensuring a profit on draft night. The books, obviously, are relying on the same information, and as a result, at this still relatively early stage in the process, there are some wildly different numbers being tossed about at the books. Line shopping has never been more important.
For example: Penei Sewell of the University of Oregon is just about a slam dunk (19-yard field goal?) to be the first offensive lineman off the board. At FOX Bet, he’s -1200 to do so. But you can get him all the way down to -625 at DraftKings.
There is also value to be had at the “first running back off the board” prop. Najee Harris of the University of Alabama is the favorite to be the first, and his price ranges from -133 on FOX Bet to -121 on PointsBet. The second choice is Travis Etienne of Clemson — at FOX Bet, he’s at +105 to be the first running back taken. But at BetMGM, you can grab him at +160. (If you’re feeling frisky, this is a prime arbitrage opportunity, assuming North Carolina running back Javonte Williams at +550 isn’t the first off the board.)
Another big difference — and this is an official, no questions asked, albeit minor, arbitrage alert — is at the “number of safeties taken in round 1.” FOX Bet prices this at -213 over 0.5 safeties, while at BetMGM you can take the under at +225.
Pitts is pure pulp
While quarterbacks are the story of the 2021 draft — and more on them in a few moments — the most exciting betting action right now revolves around University of Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who is all over the place in mock drafts. While it’s a near-lock quarterbacks are going 1-2-3, some analysts see the Atlanta Falcons snagging Pitts with the fourth pick. Others have the Cincinnati Bengals grabbing him at number five. Or the Miami Dolphins at six. Or the Dallas Cowboys at 10. Or the Philadelphia Eagles at 12.
Clearly, there are a lot of questions regarding the final destination for Pitts, who projects as a potential monster in the NFL.
— Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) March 31, 2021
As a result, FOX Bet is currently the only book offering odds as to where he’s going to land. At the time of this writing, they are: Falcons +300, Bengals +350, Dolphins +400, Carolina Panthers +500, New York Giants +600, Philadelphia Eagles +600, Dallas Cowboys +700, and 10 more teams beyond there.
Notably, these odds shifted dramatically from where they were Monday morning, when the Bengals were at +800 and the Dolphins at +475.
Is there value in any of these numbers? Well … again, who knows, though there has been a lot of scuttlebutt that the Dolphins traded back up to number six with an eye toward Pitts. The Bengals are also very much in the mix and are the biggest wild card here, with mocks having them taking either Pitts, Sewell (to help protect Joe Burrow), or LSU wideout — and former Burrow teammate — Ja’Marr Chase, himself no slouch in the “wow” department.
Watching Ja'Marr Chase film likepic.twitter.com/7TJ0kj7KOP
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 5, 2021
Interestingly, those three players are exactly who BetRivers has as the top three under “first non-QB taken” in the draft, with Pitts at +125, Sewell at +180, and Chase at +225.
DraftKings also takes an interesting angle in all this, posting an “odds to be picked in top 5” prop. There, Pitts is -200 (and Sewell -112).
In short: No one knows nuthin’ about where Pitts will pop. But there is clearly money to be made. Somewhere.
One QB, two QB, three QB, more?
Sure things are never a sure thing, but the NFL draft each year brings with it the closest things to sure things as exist in the world of betting.
For instance: Sewell as the number one offensive lineman off the board … Pitts as the first tight end, though that’s at an eye-popping -20000 (yes, four zeros) at FOX Bet … total number of quarterbacks taken in round one at over 4.5 on FOX Bet at -1200 …
Oh yes, the quarterbacks.
Trevor Lawrence of Clemson University as the top pick? Yeah, book that one at -10000 on FOX Bet.
The second pick is only slightly more interesting after the Jets shipped Sam Darnold to the Panthers, and it is also darn close to a lock: Zach Wilson to the Jets.
It’s the third pick — belonging to the San Francisco 49ers — where things start to get interesting, with FanDuel offering the best odds at +150 for both Justin Fields of Ohio State and Mac Jones of Alabama.
You want a dark horse at number three? How about Trey Lance of North Dakota State. He’s at +290 on FanDuel.
While no book is currently offering who the number four pick will be, that’s a place to keep a close eye on. The Atlanta Falcons currently hold the pick and may trade it, may draft a quarterback, or may go with Sewell or Pitts. It’s a big unknown, and what happens at number four could dictate the fate of plenty of other players. For what it’s worth, Lance is +475 to land in Atlanta, according to FOX Bet, while Sewell is +450.
Other potential value spots
Here’s a few other could-be values sitting out there:
- While Ja’Marr Chase is the consensus to be the first wideout off the board, the position is truly a wild card, as “fit” sometimes trumps “talent” at the NFL level when it comes to wide receivers. And if there are any NFL execs out there who think Alabama teammates DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle are better fits than Chase — who sat 2020 out — then Smith’s +500 (on BetRivers) or Waddle’s +850 (on FanDuel) as the first wide receiver taken will make some bettors very happy.
- We’ve yet to see a mock where Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II isn’t the first cornerback off the board, and he can be had for -250 at FOXBet.
- And lastly, much like Surtain II, Micah Parsons of Penn State is the first linebacker off the board at every mock we’ve seen, and he’s at -350 on BetMGM.
Get ready, man the phones, and cue lukewarm Kevin Costner movies: Draft Day 2021 is nearly here.
Photo: Dale Zanine/USA Today